Jockey Derek Fox celebrated a shock 66-1 winner aboard Ahoy Senor in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle, his first victory at Aintree since landing the Randox Grand National in 2017.
The Liverpool track also holds special memories for trainer Lucinda Russell, who saddled One For Arthur that day in April four years ago.
Of her winner today, Russell said: “I think that is probably the easiest Grade One we have ever had! He is just a super horse. He just gallops and jumps. I saw his point-to-point win and he done the same pointing.
“It was only his second hurdle race but we had such confidence behind him. He ran so well at Ayr over two mile four and we just knew he would keep on galloping. I can’t believe we managed to get him beat in a bumper but jumping takes him to another level and I can’t wait for him to go chasing. We took him out at Hexham last week as the ground was too quick.
“I know Sulekha (Varma, Aintree’s Clerk of the Course) really well and I knew she would do a good job and I was very happy to bring him here. I said to the owners we have got to give him a bit more experience, so let’s see how we get on.
“Everyone is very excited about the Irish point-to-points and this was from a British point-to-point and we were tipped off about him by the chap who sees all the point-to-points in Britain.
“We went down to Yorton and got him for £50,000. We got him from the breeder so that is fantastic and he was very excited. It is just fantastic and it is great for Derek to ride another fantastic winner and just for the whole yard at home.
“The head lad rides him out at home and he is quite a handful as he is a full going horse. He is quite a challenge at home but he loves the racetrack.”
Asked how the win compared to victory in the Grand National, she added: “Every winner is special. That is very special as he is half owned by my dad who is 93 and he found it hard through lockdown like many people have and the racing has really kept him going.
“This is a physically bigger horse and I know he jumps chase fences very well as we have already schooled him over little chase fences and he has already been point-to-pointing so I’d like to think next season is going to be really exciting. I don’t think we will hang about much over hurdles longer as he has so much scoping.
“He is well worth going novice chasing so hopefully we will be back here next year. Of course I backed him. I don’t do big bets but I thought 66-1 was quite insulting!”
Winning jockey Derek Fox, who was celebrating only his second ever victory at Aintree, said: “This is my first Grade One ride - and first Grade One win. It’s just unbelievable. He was a pleasure to ride. He’s unexposed, and you'd have to be impressed with the way he went and did it.
“He’s only had the one run over hurdles before today, and he made all then at Ayr. I thought the ground might be drying out and not suit him, but he won very impressively. We were hoping for a good run, but I didn’t really expect this.
“He’s got a high cruising speed and we thought he’d stay well as well, but he travelled all the way, jumped very well and we’re just delighted. He really hurdles - flicks out across them - but for a big horse he’s looking what he’s doing, as well.
“I didn’t think I would get it so easy in front and I was waiting for something to come to me sooner turning in, but he picked up again. He gave me a great feeling and felt very classy. From the first day he came he’s gone about the place with plenty of authority and has worked very well, and obviously he’s a gorgeous horse to look at, as well.
“You’re trying to get winners every day of the week and they’re not easily got, so it’s very special to get a Grade One winner here. It’s massive.”
Paul Nicholls, trainer of runner-up and 13-8 favourite Bravemansgame, said: “It was a good run. To be honest with you he got further back than I’d have liked really, we were going to ride him third or fourth and he was a bit slow out of the gate for whatever reason and he got behind.
“He travelled ok but I wouldn’t have minded him to be a few places closer and possibly have been turning in to the straight upsides in-front (rather than where he was).
“He got the trip well and ran well, I was just concerned it was a bit close to Cheltenham. If we went out there and rode the race again we’d go out there and ride him handy because that’s what we’ve done all the time on him.
“I was a bit puzzled that we were so far behind, but Harry said he was a bit slow out of the gate and it just unfolded like that. Either way, he’s a lovely horse to go chasing with next year and he’s one we look forward to.”
Jockey Harry Cobden added: “I’m delighted with him and he ran very well. We were probably a little bit too far back for the first mile but he sneaked into it nicely and he was there when it mattered.
“I thought I had it all covered turning in and I didn’t really expect Derek’s (Fox) horse to keep going the way he was. I thought it was between me, Harry (Skelton) and Jonjo (O’Neill), but we just just couldn’t peg him back.”
Colin Tizzard, trainer of third home Oscar Elite, said: “He’s run a lovely race. He had a pretty hard race at Cheltenham, but he’s seen it out well again. I thought he might win turning in, but he’s found two better. We are happy with that and he’ll be a lovely one for next season.”
Jockey Jonjo O’Neill added: “He’s a grand horse. A few of the horses who ran well at Cheltenham have found it hard here, but he’s run his race again. He’ll be a nice chaser for next year.”
Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m½f
1 Ahoy Senor – Lucinda Russell 6-11-04 Derek Fox 66/1
2 Bravemansgame – Paul Nicholls 6-11-04 Harry Cobden 13/8F
3 Oscar Elite – Colin Tizzard 6-11-04 Jonjo O’Neill 15/2
NR: Alaphilippe (unsuitable ground), Cape Gentleman (vet's certificate), The Cob (self certificate)
Distances: 7l, 8l, 6½l